Tips and Tools to Build Your Organization’s Brand

An organization’s brand is much more than what meets the eye. There’s strategy, planning and effort that go into it. At Cause Camp, Shala Wilson Graham talked about anything and everything that is related to branding and how nonprofits can improve. Graham is the principal and creative director of SW Creatives, and has provided branding and design consultation to nonprofits for over 10 years. Check out Graham’s tips from her presentation “Son of a Brand: Intentionally Build Your Brand…or Else.”

Recognize the Problem

Many times, nonprofits don’t recognize the problems that poor branding is causing. Graham said it’s a problem she has run into numerous times while working with organizations. Many problems are a result of the organization communicating incorrectly with their audience, whether that be volunteers, peers, donors, the community or anyone else your organization interacts with.

People may not see their problems as branding issues because they don’t see the brand for what it is. A brand is much more than a logo; it is your reputation. The logo can help to create a mental shortcut for your audience, but the meaning behind the logo is being built any time somebody thinks or interacts with your brand.

Start with a Solid Foundation

To build a successful and authentic brand, you have to start with your values. The things that are valued as part of your company’s culture will help to shape the best brand for you. It is also useful to define what these values mean to you, because they may hold a different meaning for somebody else.

If you work backwards and try to decide your values based on your existing brand, you could end up with an inconsistent message, leading to a confused audience and more problems. If you begin to realize that the brand and your organization’s values aren’t matching up, it may be time to start fresh with a re-brand.

Articulate Your Message

The secret to successfully communicating your brand to audiences is knowing what you want to say, and articulating that message so nobody can be confused. This can be done with clear and consistent marketing communications.

If you are successful with this, people will know what to expect from your organization; they will become more comfortable with your brand moving forward. You should see your audience’s loyalty and advocacy start to rise.

Build a Tagline AND Positioning Statement

Graham has found that many organizations think they need to choose between having a tagline or positioning statement, or they don’t know the difference between the two. In reality, it’s best to have both; the best statements function as both a tagline and positioning statement in one.

A tagline’s purpose is to give the consumer a reason to “buy”. In the nonprofit world, that means giving people a reason to get engaged with your organization. The positioning statement is supposed to set you apart from the rest of the organizations. Ask yourself, “How are we different from the competition?” or “Why would people support us over other organizations?”

Once you have both of those, you have what you need to form your value proposition. This shows your audiences the results they can expect from the value you are offering. It should look similar to, “Because we are [your position], our clients receive [the promised results].”


For more of Graham’s thoughts on the best ways to brand your organization and reach your audience, visit the SW Creatives’ blog.

nonprofit branding

Austin Heineman

April 14, 2016

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